Trafford Council’s Budget Meeting 2016
The most important council meeting of the year. It’s by far the most unpleasant meeting of the year too.
I don’t need a reminder that we in Labour failed to convince voters we should gain control in Trafford last year, but fail we did; and this, the consequence, a Tory council with free reign to pull whatever its remaining spending choices towards Altrincham and Hale.
Power within the Conservative group is concentrated with the leader, deputy-leader, finance and most of the influence coming from the Hale – Bowdon – Altrincham axis. Hale gets its brand new library whilst Davyhulme loses theirs. Some Conservatives are given the keys to spending, whilst others make do with a Christmas card from Cameron.
That’s the Conservative way.
And the Conservative way is replicated all the way to the top. When it came to the Government helping out councils, it chose a method that benefitted councils who’d suffered the least in the years of austerity. Surrey gets the largest single amount, at £24m, followed by Hampshire (£19m), Hertfordshire (£16m), Essex (£14m), West Sussex (£12m), Kent (£11m), Buckinghamshire (£9m) and Oxfordshire (£9m). You couldn’t make it up. A scheme that rewarded councils for the most billionaire’s mansions within their domains wouldn’t be that dissimilar a list.
Trafford gets the relatively pitiful transitional £0.5m for 2016/17, but it’s still more than any other council in Greater Manchester apart from Stockport. If it feels like Trafford is being patronised by Tories from the Shires, blessed with more moats than foodbanks, it should feel that way.
So the Tories have ripped us over again. We’re left with a budget gap of £22.6m. They’re imposing the Osborne Tax to raise £1.6m. They’re not increasing base council tax even if the Government expects them to. Much of the savings will be invisible to many but grim and confusing to a few. We’ve seen an illustration of this with the home to school transport for young people with special needs attending Brentwood school. The parents and children were protesting last night, as was famous guitarist, Johnny Marr. You can’t make these sorts of savings without hurting people or communities. I think people get this now.
We in the Labour Party have a responsibility to take the battle to the Tories. We need to be winning seats.